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Becoming an occupational therapist requires a minimum of a master’s degree in occupational therapy from an accredited school. In the United States, there are 156 occupational therapy programs which are accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
A bachelor’s degree is not necessary to enter an occupational therapy program, but many students opt to complete an undergraduate program in occupational therapy or another major before going on to complete a master’s degree in occupational therapy. It typically takes 5-6 years to complete the necessary education to become an occupational therapist.


1. University of Southern California

Located in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California’s Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy was ranked as the #1 occupational therapy program by US News. Founded in 1942, the school offers students the opportunity to specialize in such areas such as pediatrics and rehabilitation medicine. The university also has one of the most diverse occupational therapy programs in the country.
There are 309 students in the occupational therapy program and 70 full-time faculty members. The university offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, occupational therapy clinical doctorates, and PhDs in occupational therapy. There are several options for completing the master’s program either with or without an undergraduate degree.

2. Boston University (Sargent)

Ranked as one of the top occupational therapy schools in the country, Boston University’s College of Rehabilitation Sciences is known for its research and interdisciplinary approach to learning. Since the college is small, students have the opportunity to study one on one with faculty.
The school offers a master’s degree in occupational therapy for those who possess a bachelor’s degree in any subject and wish to enter the field of occupational therapy. The program combines coursework and fieldwork. The Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) is designed for students with a master’s degree in occupational therapy who are interested in leadership positions in the field. The OTD program is offered entirely online.

3. Washington University in St. Louis

Ranked as a top school by US News, Washington University prepares students for a career in occupational therapy in a top medical facility with individualized attention for students from exceptional faculty due to the low faculty to student ratio.
The school has a number of degree options for those wishing to enter the field of occupational therapy. Students can receive a master’s degree in occupational therapy, an occupational therapy doctorate, Post-Professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy, or PhD in Rehabilitation and Participation Science.

4. University of Illinois

The University of Illinois Department of Occupational Therapy was founded in 1943 and is one of the oldest in the country. The college has one of the best occupational therapy schools in the United States and was ranked #4 by US News in 2012.
The college offers students a Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy for those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in any major. For those seeking to further their education and become leaders in the field, the school has a Doctor of Occupational Therapy program (OTD). In addition, the PhD program in Disability Studies is a joint doctoral program that accepts students with bachelor’s and master’s degree in any major. The program was the first of its kind in the United States.

5. University of Kansas

Located in Kansas City on the University of Kansas Medical Center campus, the school was ranked #5 by US News. The college has several degree options for those who would like to study occupational therapy at a top school.
The Master of Occupational Therapy degree offered by KU involves 1 year of undergraduate study, followed by 2 years of graduate study. Students entering the program must have at least 90 credits of prerequisites. The Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree requires an OT degree and a OT license for admission. In addition, the school has a PhD in Therapeutic Science degree which is an interdisciplinary program focusing on the consequences of health conditions on an individual.

6. Colorado State University

The college, located in Fort Collins, CO, is a top ranked occupational therapy school in the United States.The focus of the occupational therapy program is research and community outreach. Students learn skills in the program to work in a variety of areas with people of all ages.
The university has a master’s degree program in occupational therapy. In order to qualify for entrance into the program, prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree and complete required prerequisites. The school also offers a PhD in Occupational and Rehabilitation Science.

7. Thomas Jefferson University

The occupational therapy program at Thomas Jefferson University was ranked highly by US News due to its excellent faculty and the pioneering instructional techniques utilized in the school. Students in the program learn occupational therapy using simulated patients, varied fieldwork settings, and community service. The school also has a consistently high pass rate on the occupational therapy national certification exam.
The school has a combined bachelor’s/master’s program that takes 3 years to complete. This program is for students who have completed at least 2 years of undergraduate coursework. Additionally, there is a The Entry-Level Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (EMOT) designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in another subject. The school also offers the clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD).

8. Tufts University-Boston School of Occupational Therapy

Tufts University’s School of Occupational Therapy is located in Boston and is ranked by US News as a top program in the field of occupational therapy. The program stresses clinical reasoning in their teaching which teaches students what they should do in a situation and why they should do it.
There are several degree options from which to choose. For students who have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, there is an entry level master’s degree. Students with a degree in occupational therapy can enter the post professional master’s degree program, and students with a master’s degree in occupational therapy can continue on and complete a doctoral degree in the subject.

9. University of Pittsburgh

Ranked as a top occupational therapy school by US News, The Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh offers students the opportunity to study in a program that seeks to advance occupational therapy interventions and has had its research published in various peer-reviewed journals.
The degrees available at the college are the Master of Occupational Therapy, Master of Science in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and the PhD in Rehabilitation Science. These degrees offer students the ability to not only become occupational therapists but to further their studies and develop research skills.

10. New York University

Ranked as the #10 best occupational therapy program by US News in 2012, NYU’s Occupational Therapy Department trains students to become exceptional researchers and practitioners in occupational therapy.
The college gives students several graduate degree options. The Master of Science degree is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in another field. The post professional programs offered by the school include a Master of Arts for students who possess a degree in occupational therapy, the Doctor of Professional Studies which is geared towards those wanting to focus on clinical studies, and the PhD specifically designed for students wishing to pursue research and teaching.

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